Sandal RUFC so close to stunning win over unbeaten leaders Otley

Playing against the unbeaten league leaders is always a daunting prospect, but Sandal put in their best performance of the season against Otley  who returned home relieved to have saved their winning record by the slimmest of margins in the dying minutes.

By Tony Harber
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 8:30 am
Jack Handley celebrates after scoring a try for Sandal against unbeaten North Premier leaders Otley. Picture: John Ashton - Ickledot
Jack Handley celebrates after scoring a try for Sandal against unbeaten North Premier leaders Otley. Picture: John Ashton - Ickledot

Home side Sandal were relentless in attack and defence, but three kickable penalties were conceded against a try and one penalty, enabling undefeated Otley to make their great escape with a 9-8 result, writes Howard Newton.

Sandal opted to play against the slope in the first half and immediately went on the attack, taking the lead in the fourth minute when Jake Adams kicked a penalty.

For the following 10 minutes the sides exchanged several penalties to gain field positions, but the hosts were taking the game to the opposition.

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Sandal produced a fantastic effort to push unbeaten North Premier leaders Otley all the way. Picture: John Ashton - Ickledot

Then in the 25th minute from a penalty line-out on the Otley five-metre line the home forwards made several attempts to crash over the line without success. With Otley expecting the same again the ball was quickly transferred to the back division and Jack Handley easily scored in the corner.

The conversion attempt failed to find its target but Sandal were 8-0 ahead and the shock result was beginning to take shape.

Otley hit back five minutes later as they reduced their deficit with a well taken penalty. From the resumption the visitors went on the attack, but Sandal defended well only to stray offside in their own half to give their opponents the opportunity to convert their second penalty in the 36th minute. It remained 8-6 until the break.

The second half produced much of the same with both sides giving away penalties and field positions being exchanged, but at the same time each side striving to break through solid defences to make the next important score.

Midway through the half the home side had an opportunity to enhance their lead with a long touchline penalty attempt, but it was not to be.

As the game moved into the final quarter and after Sandal had held the lead for 72 minutes Otley were awarded a penalty in the Sandal 22. It was converted and the visitors had taken the lead for the first time.

The final minutes were fought out with neither side scoring again and despite their earnest effort Sandal fell agonisingly one point short of the surprise result of the season.

Otley secured their 14th consecutive victory, but the result must take nothing away from Sandal’s performance, which was superb, most encouraging and a sample of what can be achieved by a young side still learning but growing in stature.

More of the same will be required when Sandal travel to play Preston Grasshoppers this Saturday.